A federal grand jury indicted four Louisiana corrections officers Thursday, charging them with violating the civil rights of inmate Nimali Henry, who died in prison last year after her medical needs were allegedly ignored. The indictment says the officers from St. Bernard Parish Prison in Chalmette, Louisiana, knew Henry, 19, had serious medical conditions but failed to provide her with necessary help, resulting in her death.
Capt. Andre Dominick, Cpl. Timothy Williams, Deputy Debra Becnel and Deputy Lisa Vaccarella are each charged with violating civil rights and making false statements to the FBI. The maximum penalties are life in prison for the civil rights charge and five years in prison for each false statement.
Henry was arrested in March 2014 on minor charges and held in jail after her family could not pay her $25,000 bond. She was arrested for disturbing the peace, simple battery and unauthorized entry after a domestic dispute. Henry, who was mother to a then-4-month-old daughter, was found lying facedown and unresponsive in her cell 10 days after her arrest, after suffering a blood clot leading to her death.
Henry’s family members said prison officers ignored their warnings that Henry needed medication to treat a blood disorder, the Huffington Post reported. “I tried to let them know about how sick she was, and they wouldn’t listen to me,” Henry’s 20-year-old sister Deshawna Henry said.
Sheriff James Pohlmann said Thursday the charges came as a surprise, and the deputies would be kept on paid administrative leave until he reviews the indictment and meets with representatives from a U.S. attorney’s office, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
“Until I can review it, I can’t react to the allegations because I don’t know the specifics,” he said.